HHMI awards university $1.4 million to design interdisciplinary science, math education program
May 24, 2012
Howard Hughes Medical Institute has awarded a $1.4 million, four-year grant to the University of Richmond to build upon its successful Integrated Quantitative Science course and develop a new program to promote diversity in math and science. It is the third HHMI grant awarded to Richmond in the past eight years.
In 2004, HHMI granted the university $900,000, and in 2008, Richmond received $1.4 million. The first grant helped the university expand the science curriculum through development of new interdisciplinary courses, hire new faculty and offer summer student research fellowships. The 2008 grant funded a new, two-semester introductory course for highly motivated science students called Integrated Quantitative Science (IQS). IQS students explore complex scientific topics through the integration of science and math in courses and research.
The new grant will build on IQS and create URISE (University of Richmond Integrated Science Experience), a program that will address the low percentage of underrepresented populations that graduate with science and math majors and pursue careers in those fields.
URISE students will spend five weeks in a paid, pre-freshman summer program, then enroll either in IQS or a new series of interdisciplinary science and math courses — Science, Math and Research Training (SMART) — for students with less rigorous high school preparation in those disciplines. They will participate in full-time research the following summer.
The new program also will add post-baccalaureate and post-doctoral fellows to support students’ transition from college and graduate school into careers in science and math (STEM) fields.
Lisa Gentile, associate professor of chemistry, associate dean of arts and sciences and grant program director, said the new program “integrates well with current challenges and opportunities in STEM education, and supports the university’s strategic plan, which focuses on all aspects of diversity.” She said the faculty is “deeply committed to students’ development in all forms — from problem solving skills to postgraduate planning.”
She said the program will involve many faculty to teach IQS and SMART courses, as well as staff in the offices of undergraduate admission, academic skills, common ground, career services and others.
“Our program is dedicated to developing the medical and scientific research leaders of tomorrow, while simultaneously increasing diversity in the STEM fields,” said Kathleen Skerrett, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “We will accomplish this through inventive interdisciplinary teaching, promoting early student engagement in research and providing mentored support.”
Richmond is one of 47 small colleges and universities sharing more than $50 million in HHMI grants to create engaging science courses, conduct real-world research and increase diversity. Richmond’s grant came in the “Persistence of All Students” category, which funds programs to encourage the success in science of students from all backgrounds.
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